Log:Array Consortium: Tripping The Rift, Part Four: Death In The Trees
And so, today's destination is...Kalarba?
Adhar sits in the captain's chair, swallowed up in his coat and a datapad on his lap; he frowns into its surface, waiting for the ship's drives to charge and clearance to be given. Nadia is co-pilot today, with Si on the boards - only because he knows the ship better, as Adhar makes very clear the to the very new, very...brusque...Cathar smuggler. Draxth, of course, is engineering support.
Mandl, however, is here for science. The kind of scientist that wears heavy combat armor and carries a big gun. Maybe it's a Bith thing.
And...the scene begins.
Mandl has been shot for Adhar, Adhar must know Mandl only wears high-qualty gear because scientists are delightfully fragile, like butterflies with... yes, weirdly-potent custom firearms. The securely-protected Bith casts unblinking eyes over the comms and sensor-arrays, nodding silently to itself as all seems in readiness. "Kalarba is not an unpleasant place-- merely harsh, as far-flung systems can sometimes be. But we... have permits."
Draxth is in the back of the bridge manipulating the engine controls. His fingers do not fly across the surface of them as other people's might. But each button press, each readout altered, is done with precision and skill. The chair for the engineering station is oddly missing. No one has seen it for a few days. Sluissi don't need chairs. Unless they have specifically constructed for a Sluissi, they can be quite uncomfortable. He rests back on his tail which he has coiled to provide more of a sitting position for him. He watches the engine readings for several more seconds before pressing a button. "Enginessss are charged and ready for lift off. We will be ready for hyper drive within a few minutessss." His tongue flicks with his speaking.
Si was there chewing on a tabac cigar. It wasn't lit. The Twi'lek making a slight course correction. "Sounds a lovely place, Captain. I got some ocean front property on Ryloth, I can seel you. If you prefer harsh. Better price and all you have to do is learn to ride the heat storm."
"Kalarba is actually quite beautiful," says Adhar, chuckling at the commentary. "The good thing is that it's just wild, not necessarily inhospitable. And it's in the middle of Republic territory, so it's also quite secure." He nods at Draxth, then says, "Put us in the sky, Si."
Mandl says, "Mandl had always heard Olorar's people await the death of one councilor and drive the living group out, as one, to die in the desert? Surely the Moonstormer's charter is less grim than all that. Si should be very pleased? Imagine if those were the rules and Captain Gann were *not* a healthy man."
Draxth keeps facing his console but manages to turn his head almost completely around to look back at the bridge crew. "Oscean front property? Sssoundss bad." Adjusting the controls, he brings full power to hull integrity to deal with the forces upon lift off and fighting against gravity. If the ship was going to go up in the air, it would be helpful if all of it went at once.
Si flicks some switchs and in a moment the repulsor lifts kick in and the Moonstormer lifts up in the air jsut a few feet. The Twi'lek taxi the ship out of the hanger. Then pulls back on the stick and throttle of the ship. The ship rising to join the traffic over Corellian district. "Well hell boss sell it. Everybody knows nothing exciting or entertaining ever happens in the Republic, escept maybe Corellia. Not that place is THAT exciting." SI shakes his head as his lekku moves side to side, "I'm not part of the head clan. It just means I might get to be captain of a ship. So I'm fine with that." He turns to look t Draxth, "You haven't spent time sunning on a beach or swimming near the shore."
"Someone try to take -my- boat, they better kill me," Adhar says with a grunt. "Right, so this -should- be uneventful. I have full licenses and support from the government, who /aren't/ a bunch of Hutts so I didn't have to bribe people to dark space and back. There's a Kalarban ecologist there, though, who we'll rendezvous with and get the lay of the land."
He leans back in his seat, ready for the trip to start - though he does look to Si. "Master Olorar, if your ambition is to be a Captain, we will do everything we can to make that happen so long as you are with the Consortium. You have my word on that."
Mandl cracks twelve knuckles. A rival ecologist, eh? Time to get into character...
Draxth keeps his attention on the power levels making sure that whenver Si goes to use something that is has th requisite power level. "Hyper drivesss are nearly ready. Just need a few more ssssecondss." When he hears about sunning on the beach, the hood of skin behind his head moves downwards some. "That ssssunning sssoundsss nice. The sswwing can be difficult depending on the place."
Si Olorar shakes his head, "Mandl is talking ritual suicide of the head clan. So you would be dead, Captain." The Ship rises up and away. " Nope. Captains are the head clan of the Array. Mandl would engineer my ritual sucide. I am happy as a helsman. Not until we can make Mandl a Captain. Ignore my potical machinations. I don't suggest adopting all Twi'lek customs. That could prevent the whole thing." They break free of the bonds of the moon. The darkness of space greets them. Si continues to feed information ito the computer for the jump. Take your time, we got a few mintues till we're far enough out to jump."
"Well, the original site had a giant, fanged, plasma-spitting worm living at the bottom of the mine trench," Adhar says to Draxth. "And bit into my previous ship. Mandl here had to literally launch an escape pod into its face to knock it off. So, you know. This site is /much/ improved."
At Si's words, he laughs. "Well, Mandl isn't in the Consortium. He works for another syndicate, but is my good friend and more importantly an investor in this affair. So we can make you a Captain much sooner than later."
And then...space. Space, hyperspace, and...adventure!
Kalarba is indeed a beautiful world, orbited by several moons - one of which is entirely covered with docks, cities, and many, many ships...many of which mine out in the asteroid belt that rings the inner part of the system. On Kalarba, however, there is next to no mining or industry; just vast rocky landscapes, beautiful forest vistas, pure, clean life.
And Adhar's island.
Technically, he simply has permission to build on and mine off the coast of the beautiful, stately rock out in the middle of the western hemisphere's Great Sea. Consisting of a single large, sheer mountain, surrounded by gentle hills and forests spreading out ten or twenty miles to the water, it is a holophoto in the making as Si brings the Moonstormer out of the clouds and down into the sky over the island. "There she is," Adhar says as the island stands in the midset of the vast glittering sea like a sentinel. "Transferring landing data to you now, Si." He slots a datacard into a panel build into his right armrest, sending the landing site data - a nice flat clearing on the water's edge before the treeline of a large forest - to his console.
Mandl activates his-or-her environmental filter not out of fear as much as a scientist's trained caution. The breath-mask and the toxin cloak are up '... in case,' meanwhile Mandl's datapad *blerp-blerp-blerps* dutifully as an attached sensor hoovers environmental and biological data for recording. "... surprisingly oxygen-rich. Those trees are aesthetically pleasing *and* efficient. Does Adhar wish Mandl to track any particular isotopes the Consortium could ... erm ... 'borrow responsibly?'" This is called up the ramp.
Draxth shifts the power from the hyperdrive engines to the landing thrusters. "Thrustersss are ready. Transssferring power to hull." He keeps typing across the console. "Let'sss hope the temperature isssn't too bad." He hasn't had time to make his device yet.
The ship brought in for a landing with style. He kills the power. "There's not native island girls are there?" Si says as meks his way down with the rest of his crew. His hand handing his gun belt resting near his blaster. He was no scientist. So he's just watching.
"Anything you find, Mandl, naturally." Adhar chuckles as he gets out of his seat, "It's nice down there, don't worry. Temperate. Lots of snakes thriving down there." Does this have anything to do with Draxth? Is he being a SPACE RACIST, or is instead more informed than he sounds? WHO KNOWS.
So flash forward to the four of you descending Moonstormer's ramp, once Si has settled it down safely on the flat, rocky ground by the ocean's edge because he does, in fact, know what he's doing. Adhar leads, naturally, walking down the ramp onto the weathered stones, breathing in the beauty of nature as filtered through the ozone and the landing struts of the freighter-turned-gunship. "The great outdoors, lads," he says with a chuckle. "No native island girls, I'm afraid, Si, but lots of potential profit." This said, he strikes off across the land, guided by the map data projected from a small holoprojector carried in his hand.
Off we go!
Mandl is surely focused on nitrogen fixation ratios, or perhaps awaiting Adhar's answer. She hasn't even drawn his gun.
Draxth slithers down the ramp following behind Adhar. He has his new gloves in his belt. While slithering down the ramp, he flicks his tongue in the air to try and smell anything on the wind. He blinks his bright green eyes and says, "I sssmell ssssomethhing. Blood. Ozone sssmell. Sssomething or sssomeone wasss shot recently. By a blassster I think." He flicks his tongue a few more times in the air. "Yes, blassster."
Si Olorar looking down the ramp, "We could import some with the profit?" He's looking for non Draxth serpanets.
"Shot?" Adhar frowns, and reaches to draw his own Socorran handcannon from its place at his hip. He looks to Draxth. "Can you lead us, Draxth? Only person supposed to be here is the ecologist."
Mandl, too, exchanges computer for pistol. "Lead on."
Draxth nods his head moving it in that exaggerated reptlian method of his. He lowers himself almost all the way to the ground as he starts to slither forward. "The sssmell isss coming from thiss way." His silthering leaves a path across the surface. He does look for any little snakes that might be along the way. He slithers on into the woods to trail of blood. "Here it ssstartsss."
Si Olorar pulls his pistol at the mention of others. "Should have hired the island girls instead." He advises Adhar. Though his head is on a swivel now looking for danger as he follows.
At length, Draxth leads the party to another clearing of sorts, a thinning of the otherwise thickly-grown forest not too far deep beyond the treeline. Here, a small hardtop dome tent is set up, survival gear, the works. And lying there at the base of the tent, his bare feet still in the doorway of the tent, a man lies staring upward at the sky, his white shirt scored with three holes in the center of his chest. He is dead. Dead, and very surprised.
The skies reflect well in the empty glassiness of his eyes.
"Well," says Adhar, "That was our contact. Who's going to kill an ecologist?" Not that he suspects Mandl, but...well.
Mandl is not a whirlwind of emotions; Bith aren't. But shaken, yes, incapable of cool scientific observation. Mandl sort of... excuses itself, breathing inconsistently and trying not to stare at the dead scientist.
Draxth slithers up to the scene of the crime. He stops far enough away so as not to slither over anything important. "Why would sssomeone want to kill an ecologist? They jussst do plantss." He starts to flick his tongue out in the air some more. He starts looking around for any technology left laying around.
Si is not very useful in the situiton other than holding his blaster. "Well they're not just a scientist. So they could want to kill them for more than one reason. Maybe he owed them money? Maybe they wanted to kill him so they could claim the place? Maybe he was sleeping with somebodies wife? They killed him? Maybe his wife killed him? He wasn't just a scientist."
"Many different reasons for a man to die," says Adhar, frowning. "Search around, you guys, see if you can find any reason why he might have been killed. I'm going to contact the authorities."
Mandl produces the man's Kalarban ID and empty wallet. "He's our man. Been robbed, it seems likely." A brief search turns up a red tissue-paper envelope. Mandl studies the leaves, peering and snuffling. "Maluma, an extract of which is made into xebonica. Illegal and used primarily in ... eliciting confessions from the unwilling. Painfully."
Draxth slithers still along the ground and lets his tongue keep working. Finally he coils up to almost half of his normal height and says, "There isss more. They went thisss way. Seeemssss like four of them." He holds up all 4 fingers on his right head while pointing at the tracks with his left. "Look. Sseee how deep the marksss are. Heavy, weight downed with sssomehting. Probably armor and possssibly more." He then slides off to one side and says, "Yet thisss isss a sssmall sshallow inprint. I think woman or a sssmall sspeciess."
Si does as he's ordered and searches the area. Though once out of eye shot he gives up and sits down on a fallen tree. He goes to pull out a flask. He then stops as she sees something shiny in grass, "Sithspawn." he says standing up and going over to find a damaged datapad in the grass. The screen smashed. "I found something. Mandl you can Slice right? I got a damaged data pad." He says moving to rejoin with the guys smarter than him.
Adhar returns after a moment. "Well, lads," he says, "I think we might be in trouble." He lifts his arm, showing off his wristcomp and commlink. "Nothing. Jammed. Let's get back to the ship, before this gets worse."
Mandl nods agreement. "I do not think we four can outgun professional killers, mercenaries, whichever-- let us gather in safety and strategize."
Draxth says, "If you want me to build ssssomething againsssst armored people, I'm your engineer. If you want me to fight them, you might be picking up ssscaless." Draxth says. It comes across almost like a Sluissi saying. "We ssshould be sssilent in cassse they heard usss land. Isss there anyway to tell how long ago thisss happened?"
Si emerges with the datapad. "What do yu mean there are still killers here? How do we know they're still here? Maybe they got what the want and left? If not they definetly know we're here."
Adhar Gann blows out a breath. "Uh...here," he says, stooping down to check the body - taking off one of his gloves, he probes the flesh around the wounds, underneath the holes in the shirt. "He's not stiff yet," he says. "These burns are definitely fresh, and this commlink is definitely jammed. Let us take the kriff off, my friends."
Which is when the armored men come running out of the trees to the north, big damn blast rifles at the ready.
There are eight of them, men in a collection of paramilitary armors and battle rifles, led by a thin, pale man whose face is almost entirely engulfed in scars, wearing what is - absolutely - a suit of old Imperial stormtrooper armor. He is very happy to see us. You can tell because his teeth are metal.
His armor is painted yellow.
Mandl doesn't pick the weakest out of spite or cowardice, one assumes, but hopefully a scientist's check of the odds and a desire to reduce the number of guns -- she snaps off a shot at the inexperienced-looking one, confident she'd... like to survive ...?
Draxth doesn't have any armor besides his scales. Nor does he have any weapons beyond his tools and those gloves and his tail. He pauses for a moment and thinks about his tail. Swiftly he slinks all the way flat to the ground and begins to slither behind cover in a way that only a snake can do. He starts looking for an avenue around the soldiers or at least to the side of one.
Somebody fired a blaster bolt! Si's not sure who but someone fired a shot. So the Twi'lek drops to behind the pile of trunks of a wind fall of tropical trees. "Sith spawn." He shouts as he pops over to fire. " Storm Troopers?"
The storm of blaster bolts loosed from the campsite causes the armed men to scatter - they dive behind cover, trees and stones. Adhar isn't expecing people to open fire, but when Mandl starts blasting away, the situation is set. Adhar, behind the hard bubble of the tent, ducks down and fires at the man in yellow; the giant near-telescope of his weapon's scope makes it possible, as he fires from around the edge of the tent, but the Yellow Man manages to seek cover in time for Adhar's handcannon to splinter only wood.
One of the men, however, takes a hard tag from Mandl's pistol before falling in the mud, groaning.
"Suns below," Adhar bellows, "Get to cover, all of you!"
Mandl's resolve holds, and a Bith's aim is not to be underestimated!
Draxth starts to slither along under cover looking to find one of the ones hiding behind a large stone on the outskirts of the camp. Using the brush to hid him, Draxth snakes his reptilian body silently along towards him.
Si pops up from his hidding place to shoot. The first shot wild and the second oen landing. "What do they want?" He calls out. He moves to craw along his cover slowly to reposition.
Once rooted behind cover, death breathes fire over the campsite. A blistering storm of blaster fire pours out from the forest into the clearing, certainly fatal were it not for the campsite. Adhar, ducking behind the tent, shields his eyes as multiple rifle blasts shreds the hard plastic of the dome all around him - then lets out a hissing groan, the source of which is unseen.
"Why, Adhar Gann!" The Yellow Man's voice is a metallic synth, a droid voice from a ruined throat. "I had no idea that you'd be here, but I am so /very/ happy that you are!"
"I...nnngh. I know! What a wonderful surprise! Please to die immediately!" Adhar pops over the top of the dome, revealing a scorched hole in the back, and what must be a penetrative gut shot. He fires twice, one blast shattering the tree truck next to the Yellow Man's face; the next shot goes square into the man's chest, blasting through plastoid and sending a fountain of sparks out of the hole. The Yellow Man does not shout, but he falls back, smoke pouring out of his torso.
"Draxth! Get out of here and bring the ship!"
Cover fire, please, gentlemen!
Mandl starts, as one considering the odds must, reducing the organizational efficiency. Most medals? Is Mandl's target! The pistol drops sideways in his grip as he looses a bolt, furious!
Draxth pauses in his stealthy approach on the private and immediately moves off in the direction of the ship. Without those pesky legs that mammals have, he can use his entire body for speed and keep low to the ground. Within moments, he slithers out of sight.
Si went to the Stormtrooper school for firing. "Captain, we need to work on your interpersonal skills. Everyone's wanting to kill you... and me by extension. First Mandl on the ride over with his Head clan business. Now this guy."
The blasts are flying thick and fast from the treeline, but it's getting significantly thinner as the lot of you bring their active numbers through death and injuries. Adhar, leaning heavily against the dome tent, continues to fire as he roars something made unintelligible by the sheer noise of the shooting. One hit hits another man in heavier armor, causing him to slump momentarily against a rock, but the Yellow Man is kept pinned down both from his apparent wound and suppressing fire.
Si went to the Stormtrooper school for firing. "Captain, we need to work on your interpersonal skills. Everyone's wanting to kill you... and me by extension. First Mandl on the ride over with his Head clan business. Now this guy."
Mandl dashes for Adhar's position, lest she need to drag the Captain aboard!
Si Olorar hits one of the troopers as he tries to make it somewhere safe. "I hope D makes it soon and no likes my jokes."
Adhar Gann is...pale. He's losing steam, even as he continues to try and target the bastard in yellow armor - who is, at this point, redoubling his strength as all but the toughest fighters remain. Adhar slides down the side of the tent, smearing blood down the white plastic dome, and sits down hard; he closes his eyes for a moment, fumbling at his belt for another blaster charge pack, and then...
The sudden, steady whine of a laser cannon heralds the destruction of the forest all around you. Trees explode and burn as /Moonstormer/ sails overhead, casting its shadow across the forest as the ship's turbolasers train the treeline. As one, the remaining soldiers flee, dragging the very man in yellow with them as they try their best to escape the freighter-turned-gunship that fills the clearing with sound the roar of its drives and the shuddering of downturned thrusters.
"I think," Adhar manages to yell over all that sound, "That I might need to lay down."
Mandl's six-fingered facility with a medpack is, if not legendary, a scientist and miner's most... frequently handy skill. She's daubing and pressing! "Do not move until Mandl is finished, Adhar. Everything will be alright."
And so, a potential massacre - at least on our end - is averted. Interesting things emerge as the Kalarban authorities arrive, however, for the death of their ecologist is only the tip of the iceberg. Turning the island into one enormous crime scene, the local police discover what turns out to be a massive cave built into the side of the mountain that plays host to sprawling fields of red maluma plants, thriving under batteries of growth lights. While not necessarily illegal in their own right, growing them in the Kalarban environment, protected as it is, definitely serves as a crime. The whole thing is burned, and the cavern sanitized over the next few days, and - once Adhar is out of a bacta tank and able to discuss the matter - the Kalarban authorities become satisfied that it isn't the crew of the /Moonstormer/ that's responsible for the operation or the death of their man.
Far from it, in fact. It appears that the ecologist seems connected to the care and processing of the plants, if the ruined datapad that Si found is any indication. But where do the leaves go? That, at least for now, remains a mystery. There are no real clues, just code-labels and numbers without context. Once the identities of the Yellow Man's dead mercenaries are uncovered, and their ties to organized crime syndicates elsewhere in the galaxy are confirmed, the Kalarban government is very happy to chalk up the crew's discovery of the dead man and the subsequent gunfight to a very bizarre coincidence (which, it seems, it actually /was/.) Adhar and his newly-minted mining concern are given full license to build on the island, and the Office of Ecological Preservation and Natural Development immediately begins work clearing away a considerable portion of the forest along the shore for a fairly sizable colony and industrial area to be constructed. It's all a matter of time, now.
Not all questions are resolved, of course. There remains the question of the Yellow Man himself - how did he survive the obliteration of his starfighter over Bimmissaari? And who does he work for? Though the mercenaries are connected to past criminal outfits, the identity of /his/ employer, or even his own name or background, remains a mystery. One imagines that particular story isn't over yet.
But really, it does seem that Adhar is intent in paying for every acre of this place in his own blood. One hopes he doesn't run out before it's fully paid for.